Dyslexia insights with the Embracing Dyslexia Film Director

Sometimes, teachers and educators may recognize that their students have difficulty reading, but they don’t want to mention the D-word because they’re afraid to label kids. With his film, Embracing Dyslexia, director Luis Macias has set out to remove the stigma of dyslexia by helping to educate others about this learning difference and get kids the help they need sooner.

Mr. Macias was motivated to create the film because of his son Alejandro. Due to his learning challenges, Alejandro repeated first grade, but they didn’t find out what was causing his reading difficulties until he was in second grade when they had him tested.  At that point he was diagnosed with dyslexia.

The delay in finding out about his son’s dyslexia and the knowledge that he could have received reading therapy earlier weighed heavily on Mr. Macias. He didn’t want other parents to have to go through the same experience.

I had a chance to interview Mr. Macias about his Embracing Dyslexia movie during this year’s Texas Book Festival. You’ll find my videos with him as part of this blog post where he shares his journey and advice for parents and dyslexic students.

In my write-up below, I’ve designated my additional comments with “CB“.

The D-Word

When Alejandro’s principal and teacher were informed about his diagnosis, they were on-board to provide some accommodations, but his son’s principal didn’t want to call it dyslexia. She called it the D-word, which took Mr. Macias aback.

Why didn’t she want to use a word that would give students and parents an idea of what’s wrong?

They didn’t want to label the kids, but it’s important to know about dyslexia so kids can get help. Dyslexia wasn’t a curse. Mr. Macias was disappointed that the school knew about dyslexia, but didn’t want to talk about dyslexia with parents and students.

Mr. Macias went to see Susan Barton talk about dyslexia and that inspired him to create his film to help others learn about dyslexia, and to help educators and parents get the help their kids need.

Learning about dyslexia

When he first started working on his film, Mr. Macias didn’t know much about dyslexia, and he worried if his son would be able to continue to go to school or later to college.

He found there were a lot of myths, but he wasn’t sure if it was because people didn’t know about dyslexia or because there was misinformation.

Dyslexia affects 1 in 5

Dyslexia affects a lot of people—by many estimates 1 in 5 have reading difficulties. Mr. Macias asked, if it affects so many people, how can we ignore it?

He needed to get the information out to let dyslexic kids know that they can blossom as adults. For students who have low self esteem, he wants to tell them that they are smart, but they just learn in a different way. He wants to figure out how to get dyslexic students the tools they need so they can blossom as students and later as an adults.

Even though it will require a lot of work, Mr. Macias is confident that his son will be able to do whatever he wants in life.

Advice for parents with dyslexic children

As a first step for parents, Mr. Macias recommends that you educate yourself about dyslexia. Search for resources online, including many of the resources on his Embracing Dyslexia website.

Second, understand that dyslexia is something that is brain based. It’s not because kids are not trying hard enough or because they don’t want to do it.

It’s hard for readers, those who have not had problems with reading, to understand.

Be patient. be supportive, and find the strengths in your child. Don’t just focus on the negatives and what they are not good at. Find the talents that your child has and help to nurture them.

Next steps in the classroom

When you talk with your child’s teachers, find out if they know what dyslexia is. If not or if they only know about the myths, help them learn about dyslexia and how it affects your child. Find ways for you and they to work together. Most teachers want their students to succeed.

If you can educate your teacher, that’s a beginning for your child and the other dyslexic students in your child’s classroom.

Having to educate all your teachers in middle and high school can be hard, especially since they may not believe that dyslexia is real or they believe the myths about it.

When you’ve met one dyslexic, you’ve met one dyslexic.

Mr. Macias said that he interviewed someone who said that “when you’ve met one dyslexic, you’ve met one dyslexic.” No two dyslexic are the same. They all have their own personal struggles in different ways.

This makes it difficult because the way teachers can help one dyslexic may not be the best way to help other dyslexic students.

In addition to working with your teachers, you need to higher a tutor, specifically a tutor that knows what dyslexia is and who can teach kids in a way that will help them learn. The International Dyslexia Association can help you find tutors in your area.

CB: I’ve worked with a lot of tutors, and when you can connect with them, you can go far.

Advice for students with dyslexia

Like Mr. Macias tells his son, you’re going to have to work harder than other students to get the grades that you’re going to get, but you need to believe in yourself.

Dyslexia is not you. Dyslexia is a different way of learning, and you are still a smart student who can accomplish whatever you want. Yes, you may struggle with reading, but you will have success in other areas.

CB: On a personal note, I find that dyslexic students have to push through so much that it helps them mature faster than their peers.

Alejandro’s progress in school

Mr. Macias shared that after he and his son learned about dyslexia, his son’s attitude changed about school. One of his favorite subjects is math. He has a tutor and his reading ability is improving.

Mr. Macias said that his son uses the iPad, the iPhone, and a computer from time to time, such as for research. There are still times where his son is really struggling, but he helps is son as best he can.

My thoughts on dyslexia

CB:  On a personal note, in the beginning, I didn’t want to accept that I had dyslexia. I didn’t want any help. I thought that I would figure things out and I would be fine.

If you have dyslexia, you have to come to accept your dyslexia in your own way, and once you do, you’ll be stronger for it.

But eventually, I accepted that I had dyslexia. I found that I had to practice, work, and push through with everything that was available to me—my own strengths, available technologies, and accommodations for my learning style.

I encouraged other dyslexics in my school to look for help and go to our school’s learning center where they can get assistance and tutoring.

Math is a hard subject for me since I have dyscalculia and dysgraphia in addition to dyslexia, but as I work more with math problems, I’m able to understand the concepts easier.

Some dyslexic students can read relatively well after reading tutoring. With my severe dyslexia, I still struggle with reading even after many years with reading therapy. The letters look 3D, as though they are jumping around. Sometimes I can see the letters, but I can’t get the word.

Back in kindergarten, I would say things like cat as “ct” because I couldn’t recognize the vowel. And don’t get me started with confusing “b” and “d”!

If you have dyslexia, you have to come to accept your dyslexia in your own way, and once you do, you’ll be stronger for it.

Additional videos from the Texas Book Festival

Here are more videos about students experiences with dyslexia that I took at this year’s Texas Book Festival.

My thanks to Ms. Mandy Tucker, Assistant Head of Lower School at Rawson Saunders for her assistance with all of the interviews.

Update: Watch the entire video series with Luis Macias and learn more about his film and dyslexia.

My high school journey

I’ve learned a lot more about myself

I’ve been so busy with my first semester in high school, that I haven’t been able to blog as much as I’ve wanted to this fall. Ninth grade has been a lot of work, but I’ve learned a lot…from science (which I love!) to algebra, world geography, and more! I’ve learned a lot more about myself too, and I’ve especially enjoyed sharing my knowledge by tutoring other students in science. (Just finished my biology final today. Yea! :-))

Thanks for sharing my journey with me.

Your friend,
Ben

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Filed under Dyslexia, Dyslexic, Embracing Dyslexia, Kickstarter, Luis Macias, Mandy Tucker, Rawson Saunders School, Susan Barton, Texas Book Festival

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